Irmo may join Lexington County sales tax plan after initial no

tflach@thestate.comJanuary 19, 2014 

— Irmo leaders may change their minds and submit projects that could get aid from a proposed penny-on-the-dollar sales tax in Lexington County.

The new look comes after county leaders suggested that abstention is shortsighted.

Town leaders are developing a package of drainage and road intersection improvements for inclusion in the plan that would go to voters countywide for approval Nov. 4.

Irmo is the only one of the county’s 15 communities refusing to recommend projects for the tax plan.

Its omission would raise questions on whether the northeast corner of the county would benefit much from the tax, County Councilman Johnny Jeffcoat of Irmo said.

Irmo’s holdout is practical and political, town leaders said.

Projects first suggested like a new public works building and sidewalks are minor steps that wouldn’t qualify for the plan, Mayor Hardy King said.

“What we had was not major but things we can do on our own,” he said.

A new set of improvements in drainage along with widening and adding signals at two intersections are a better fit, he said.

The turndown also reflects unease among retailers that a tax hike will damage business, Councilwoman Kathy Condom said.

“We’ve heard from restaurants that do not want this to go through,” she said. “Some feel we are taxed enough.”

Members of an advisory panel will select from among what’s expected to be as many as 300 proposals in settling on a package of improvements that would be paid for by a tax over eight years.

Some supporters warn the tax will fail unless all areas benefit.

Irmo could gain something even if town leaders again balk at taking part.

Lexington-Richland 5 school officials are seeking $10.5 million in renovations at Irmo High and Nursery Road Elementary. And officials at the Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission are working on a list as well.

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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